The Two Popes

Just as pensive as it is humorous, The Two Popes is a splendid buddy comedy meets character study that sees 2 people looking back on the choice they’ve made in their lives.

The film is set in 2012 during a shift in leadership in the Catholic Church. Word of the inner workings of the Catholic Church is leaked by an associate of Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins). There are swift pushback and controversy from the press and the public. Benedict is prepared to abdicate his position and has Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina (Jonathan Pryce), who we now know as Pope Francis come to visit him. The pair first butt heads but soon find themselves having a deep conversation about their relationship with God and belief as a major change in both of their lives draws near.

For a film about ruminating on life in old age, The Two Popes is surprisingly relatable. The screenplay from Anthony McCarten taps into universal themes of love, loss, and regret in a way that I think nearly anybody of any age can identify with on an emotional level. The film is at points relaxed and casual, and at others philosophical and all-encompassing as it explores the very notion of faith and the rhetoric and practices of the catholic church. The film tackles these complex issues about religion in an honest, genuine way, where many films would stumble and turn it into a heavy-handed, pretentious mess. The Two Popes may be a relatively easy watch, but it’s still thought-provoking.

Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins both give top-notch performances worthy of acclaim. These are two experienced, classically trained actors, who are super entertaining to watch on screen. They have an almost magnetic quality to them and I was impressed by how much they bring these characters down to earth. Once we see them interact, it remove this sense of otherworldliness and we go from watching characters to watching people. A pair of fine actors doing really good work.

The Two Popes is about 2 polar opposites, in how they interpret their beliefs, finding friendship in their shared experiences. When it gets down to it, we’re not that different from one another. We’re all human and all it takes is a conversation to realize what we have in common. There are some stylistic choices made here that I loved. The loving recreation of the Vatican imbues the film with an authenticity from the very first scene. I thought the manipulation of aspect ratio and color correction not just served as a nice transition between flashbacks and the present, but gives the film some visual flair.

I give The Two Popes 4 out of 5 stars.  The Two Popes is a witty, thoughtful exploration of the lives of 2 religious figures. Add 2 compelling lead performances and a great screenplay from Anthony McCarten and trust me when I say you’re in for a treat. This film is out in limited release now and arrives on Netflix on December 20th, just in time for the holidays.

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